Saturday, August 13, 2016

Paris Hold 'Em

Years ago, I went to hear fourteen cellists play inside a very old, wondrously constructed cathedral on a little island right in the heart of Paris: One might say that this sacred place was built already knowing that fine acoustics would be an endangered thing - among many which cannot be touched or quantified in standard ways - in the almost thousand years before when it was built.

One of the pieces that was played required one of the cellists just to pluck while the other thirteen bowed. This solo plucker was a young woman - couldn't have been past twenty-five. In her less than 10,000 days and nights on earth, she had crawled, walked and run to do this single thing, to pull that string and strings in a way so defined and mesmerizing that with each touch, giant orbs of tears fell from my eyes. Yes. She was that damn good.

I got there very early and had seated myself in the front pew, but needed to see another human's face during this composition. I turned to see wet faces surrounding me. Everyone. Was. Crying. At the beauty hitting our ears and traveling much further in and around than that Hadron colliding thing could ever do.

Big, burly men weeping - ah, France with your real men who cry! And dozens of toddlers were transfixed. The women's tears were spread out like a full house in poker, but with cards from different decks...

The language barrier was nonexistent. But so was skin, skeletons, past, present and the next moment. We all became a singular worshipping organism privileged to hear this winsome girl do what God had called her to do as surely as angels fly.

When it was over, the applause cracked back in nearly a violent cacophony and that, too, was perfection: Our feeble, our only, heartfelt way to say, "Thank you". As she took her bows, her expression was both devoid of false humility and boastful posturing.

"You are all most welcome", she seemed to say. And we all knew she'd be there making the same sound whether we had come or not. It was the card she drew.

This week in New York, a thirteen year-old boy who, by all accounts, was immature and preternaturally innocent, was teased, bullied and, all of that ignored by the adults who were in charge, could take it no more and decided to end his days on earth. Less than 5000 days here and the ache of being continually tormented too much for his soul to bear. He committed suicide. At thirteen.

I wouldn't want to be one of the teachers or administrators at that school right now. Perhaps some of them are equivocating, denying. It's human to resist the notion that we could have prevented such a tragedy. Even among those who loved him most and cared deeply, the frantic, breast beating sense of helplessness must be greater than any we'd care to compute.

Ironically and maybe reduntantly, the name of the school is Holy Angels.

Wait. All angels aren't holy. I forgot. There are the fallen kinds. And more than one at that: the ones who fell because, although they were exalted, still wanted more. And then the little precious ones who fall, kind of like Icarus, if I may swap myths in midstream...

Dear Danny Fitzpatrick, dear boy.

I don't know the name of that composition I heard in Sainte-Chapelle, but I pulled up kd lang singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" from the Juno awards in Canada a few years ago because I remembered its effect on me.

It's not sloppy seconds. It's over 6:00 long and the tears in her eyes at the end for a rightly deserved standing ovation reminded me of that wonderful day I got to hear an angel play her violin: an angel that this world didn't fail, fleece or fuck over. An angel who got to dance with God while she was still here.

I know you're in His big lap now and that all the pulverizing pain that took you away from us - and whatever you were on your way to becoming, darling - is but a memory.

We'll send your family all the thrown as fast as MLB pitchers' fastest pitches and they'll unfurl, please, God, and wrap themselves around your Mama and Daddy and your sister who found you with a belt around your neck and your suicide note.

And we'll especially send them to the other children being failed by adults around them: the ones who were cruel to you. In years to come, it may be that they have nightmares that no grown up deserves and that would be twice the pity.

How did we get to be a world where disability, where different ability, even where harmless oddity is not only mocked but worse than tarred and feathered and, more telling, where the ones doing the mocking are at the highest levels of political visibility?

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